*Gov Okowa extols Keshi for his contributions to football devt
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Late Nigeria football legend, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, is to be interred in his hometown, Illah, Delta State today.
The final rites for the former Super Eagles captain and coach began yesterday with a one-hour church service at Saint Paul’s Catholic Church, off Airport Road, in Benin City, Edo State before lying-in-state at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, where Keshi played many matches for the New Nigeria Bank FC.
A novelty match between ex-internationals and All-Stars at the same venue, in honour of the former libero, ended 1-1. Some of the former players on parade yesterday include, Peter Rufai, Austin Eguavoen, Uche Okechukwu, Victor Ikpeba and Mutiu Adepoju. NFF President, Amaju Pinnick was a guest at the event.
Some of the players who eulogised the late coach and player, appealed to management of the country’s football to set personal interest aside for the growth of the game.
Ikpeba who particularly noted that Keshi sacrificed a lot for the growth of football in Nigeria, said crave for personal interest has retarded the growth of football in the country.
According to him, “Keshi had done a lot for the progress and the level the game is in Nigeria today. He made a great impact in Nigeria football and promoted the sport to its highest level in the country.
“The void left by Keshi will be difficult to fill and I appeal to those managing football in Nigeria to set aside personal interest for the game to grow,” Ikpeba stated.
On his part, Okechukwu who said he was still in shock with the demise of Keshi, said he was not happy with development of the round leather game in Nigeria.
He therefore called for concerted efforts to be put up for the country to rediscover its lost glory in the game. Similarly, Rufai described Keshi as a disciplinarian who will be missed by football loving fans.
The body was later taken to Asaba, the Delta State capital en-route Illah, Keshi’s ancestral home.
In Asaba, the remains of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winning coach laid in state inside the Indoor Hall of the Keshi Stadium, named after the legend by former Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Today, another church service is scheduled for Illah, before internment. Reception will take place at the Omorka Primary School in the serene town.
Earlier on Tuesday, Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has urged the family of late Stephen Keshi to take solace in the fact that he lived a good life.
Governor Okowa made when he led members of the state’s executive council and other top government officials to Keshi’s residence at Illah, Oshimili North Local Government Area of the state to condole his family.
On hand to receive the governor and his team were the late Keshi’s children led by Jennifer, his elder brother, Mr Sylvester Keshi, traditional chiefs, among others.
According to the governor, “I am here with members of the state executive council, members of House of Representatives and the state House of Assembly to pay our condolences. I do know that the death of a loved one is very painful.”
“Stephen Keshi made his mark not only as a footballer but as a coach, he lived a good life, but, we cannot query God,” Governor Okowa said, adding, “continue to rely on God because, only God can be faithful,”
“Your father lived a good life and he contributed his quota to the development of Nigeria, he was one of our own,” the governor reiterated, assuring that Stephen Keshi’s name would be immortalised.
While disclosing that he was aware of the re-naming of Asaba Township Stadium after the deceased ace footballer who won laurels for the country as the Captain of the Super Eagles and as coach of the national team, Senator Okowa said the financial situation rocking the country has affected the progress of work at the stadium.
He appealed to the family to be peaceful throughout the burial ceremony, stating that “a befitting burial is when it is peaceful and acceptable to Almighty God, it is not about doing things elaborately.”
Both Miss Jennifer Keshi and Mr Sylvester Keshi who spoke at the occasion thanked Governor Okowa and the government of Delta State for contributing towards a successful burial ceremony.
Miss Keshi emphatically, bemoaned lack of keeping to promises made to her late father by the Federal Government and his associates.